1/30/11

On starting the day with a CLEAN SLATE!!

One of the most important thing to remember as a teacher and a parent is that every new day is a clean slate. Kids are incredibly sensitive people that pick up on the even most minute negative energy coming from an adult and to know that any past mishaps are forgiven and forgotten is so essential in being able to move forward. I know this because I remember just knowing my 'place' in the class based on my teacher's actions. I remember being in a shy and quiet 4th grader, an English language learner, struggling at home and at school, and knowing instinctually how my teachers felt about me from the ever so subtle bits and fragments of social cues I picked up from them. As young people we learn to weave together bits of action clues from the grown-up world and interpret all those actions into some kind of kid-friendly truth by which we then build our world and our own truths.

Yesterday, in the heat of being placed in time-out for having bothered his sister for the 4th time, my 6-year old son yells out how he loves dad a 'billion' times more than me. I have heard comments such as these before and I know how meaningless they are coming from an angry, out-of-control child being placed in time-out. But this time, those words stopped me in my tracks. I made sure he did not get the satisfaction of seeing me crumble, but inside I was stung, I was hurt. I emotionally pulled inside for a few hours while we drove around looking at houses (we are house hunting) and all along I knew what the right thing to do was, it was just hard to get there as my hurt struggled to close him off emotionally. From knowing the science of pain and suffering, I knew and trusted that the sting of those words would fade from my body in time and that I would not feel this hurt for long. As the Buddhists explain, pain is just an energy force that run through our body. I was going to not react until it faded.

As I knew it would, at around bedtime the words have lost their sting and I felt the hurt leave me, I felt lighter already. I pulled my son aside and told him how hurt those words made me feel and that dad and I loved him so much, and how special he was to us, and how being our first child, he was first imagined in a wish between dad and I. I then reminded him how people's hearts are delicate and easily broken and that words are very powerful tools that can cause great pain or great happiness. He apologized, kissed and hugged. He felt good that he could fix something and I felt great that I could let go and breathe....

As I walked back to bed with true peace back at my side I was reminded of Tyler Perry. I am a HUGE Tyler Perry fan. In his movies he emphasizes that forgiveness is not for the perpetrator, forgiveness is for us, it helps the victim.....and in his words, "There's nothing like real forgiveness, a deep-down forgiveness ..." . How true those words ring tonight.

1/29/11

Other's negative assumptions of you.....

No matter how hard you try to live in 'right-action' with others, some people are not always going to assume the best of your intentions, so what do we do? Do we try and try to convince them of the purity of our intentions, or do we leave it alone and hope it fixes itself?

What I have found in relationships is that in most cases, when faced with uncertain set of facts, most people will take the easy route and just assume the worse. In having experienced this a couple of times I have made a decision a while back to not worry about how my actions are perceived, but to simply do what's best with the knowledge I have and with the best intentions, and let all other 'cards' fall where they may.

In most cases the people who assume the worse about others from the beginning actually prefer the negative dialogue they have in their head to facts. It might be a protective mechanism they use to assure they do not get hurt. They might also jump directly to the worse conclusion about you if they do not like you. These people may be 'waiting in ambush' for some action on your part to misinterpret. I both cases, when a dubious action of yours comes their way, they pad and weave together some clever set of thoughts about you and rationalize the negative conclusions. When this happens the best thing to do is walk away, far away. Ultimately, breaking someone else's negative assumptions about you are not your responsibility or within your power.

I have come to trust through experience that the plain truth of our actions and of who we clearly are will be revealed through the passage of time only. Bad assumptions are better left alone; trying to dispel them is futile and may only serve to further feed the wrong assumption.

1/28/11

Nine New paintings (photos and descriptions included)

I have been working on various new pieces within the past 2 months. They are around the subject of nature, specifically plant forms and roots. I have always believed that nature holds all the answers and this work allows me to contemplate all the lessons held by these seemingly very quiet and unassuming living things.

The painting about is called 'Nurturing Nature'. As a parent of 2 young children I am constantly thinking about all the aspects that go into parenting. This painting reminds us about what is happening beneath is just as important as what is happening above, in fact, it may very well be more important, for what feeds the tree is what will allow the beautiful blooms to grow way up on the tops of the tree. That is called 'rearing'.

This one above is an 8x10. When we went to the Redwoods last year we saw thousands of ferns. ferns come into life rolled up into this beautiful spiral which later unwinds. I call this one 'process'. It's reminiscent of the path without the need for a end-result.
The one above I am still working with, but I am including it here for it;s part of the 8x10 sets. It's called 'Hidden beauty'. Here sits a plant form at the bottom of the ocean floor, unobserved and unseen by human eyes. Is it still beautiful even though no one sees it? even thought no one calls it that? Yes, we define ourselves in life, regardless of the criteria of others, we must learn to sway all alone at the bottom of the ocean and still know we are worth it.
I showed this one above to my schoolchildren and they all had varied responses that were VERY vocal and strong. I wanted to bring up the idea of the inside of our bodies and how the veins and capillaries are very much like roots. Also notice how the bulbous items come in the way of the path of the 'roots' and yet the roots go around it, and sometimes right over it. This image calls for the need for flexibility of the human heart.

In working with flexibility I had to create one for my son. I always tell him about the importance of flexibility and how flexibility is strength. These flowers above do not fight the wind, they bend with it, allowing themselves to survive. A less flexible plant might fight the plant and snap in half and die. What we often see as weakness may very well be a strength.
This one above is called, 'birth'. I tool AP bio in high school and I always remember being somewhat fascinated by the 'birth' of a seed. As a teacher of kindergarten years ago I also sprouted seeds. It's always such a fascination to see such a delicate thing crack open a seed I myself can't open. A baby too for example seems like the most delicate thing yet in going through the labor process is no picnic. Babies are stronger than we think.
The one above is titled, 'Love'. One set of roots are embraced and curled together .
This one (24"x30" ) was the first I made in the series.....the picture does not convey the level of texture in this painting. To see close-up images go here.
The one above is called, 'idea'. When we get an idea it begins as a small seed or dream deep within ourselves. But it holds great power, wonder and potential.

1/26/11

You show me yours and I'll show you mine

(I knew I'd get you to read me with that title)
At 37 years old I just came to two realizations. I just realized that there are two kinds of people; the ones who evaluate their living and the ones who don't. The second realization is that I tend to gravitate towards the ones who do. One of the reasons I love Oprah so much (yes, even though she had Michelle Rhee on her show....I'd forgiven her) is because she is the most famous reflective person I know. Who else do you know who is world-famous and has exposed so much about her past; even the bad parts. She is who she is because she has taken control of her own narrative about her life and bared her soul to her public and in doing that she has allowed us all to feel better in our own skin.

My oldest friend, Jenna, is also a self-reflective soul. I can recall spending hours with her talking about life lessons, spirituality and all other aspects of living fully. My general rule of thumb about friendships is you have to show me who you are. I want to see the soft, mushy, even ugly side. Opening up this way allows not only you to be you, but me to be me. In flipping that rule and applying it to myself, I find it incredibly important to be openly self-reflective in my public life. When I feel stupid I admit it, when I feel excited to get visibly giddy, when I feel hurt I get sad. Ripping the separating walls open in ourselves and sharing the stuff we all tend to hide from everyone allows people around us be less harsh to themselves and to allow their own walls to fall too.

I just watched an interview last week with Ricky Martin on Oprah. He came out as gay on the show and Oprah had several gay Latinos come on the show and express how Ricky's coming out allowed them to come out to their families. I was a mess watching this, it was such a powerful message. These people who would have otherwise lived a lie for many more years, yet, suddenly made a decision purely based on this famous person's decision to come out himself. What an incredible gift we give ourselves and others when we allow ourselves to shine from within and to trust that who we are on the inside is valid and important and essential for others to grow. The mere act of purely loving ourselves unfolds into a gift for all the people we touch.

For all these reasons, openly self-reflective people bring me to a higher level, they feed me with soul food and allow me to search further within myself. It's like living at a different, a higher frequency. I am reminded of my mom's age-old words that go something like, "tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are." What do our friends say about who we are and most importantly about where we want to go?

Perfect picture of my little man

My little man and Thomas, the cat.....yes, and his new haircut. His smile brightens my day!

Nora's new block structures

Okay, so I am a bit obsessed about the blocks. But everyday I get home and there is another beautiful 'sculpture' (that is what we call them).
Check out the arches!!!
and the cute little 'bridges'.

1/25/11

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the most trustworthy of them all?

The concept of trust has been on my mind a lot lately. What does it mean to trust someone or something? When do we trust? When do we not trust? Trust means to have blind faith in a specific outcome. In the movie Indiana Jones, the protagonist had to walk out some empty space trusting there was an invisible bridge that would hold him. It's depicts the very thing I think about trust; that it's a risky thing to trust. Yet, when done right, it can bring many rewards.

Yet, it's not all about 'blind' faith. That would be quite dumb and hurtful going around trusting everyone we knew. On the contrary, in order to trust someone or something they MUST meet certain requirements first. In friendship for example, there are two requirements I have for trust to happen. One, you must be happy with yourself. Unhappy people just do NOT make for a trusty relationship, and that is a 'NOT' in capitals. People who often lack something, or who simply may feel they lack something in life tend to not be trusty. Think of anyone you might know who feels wronged by life or who does not yet feel they have 'enough' (in their mind); might be power, success, money, relationship, attention etc. These people are most likely to self-prioritize and make decisions that would primarily right their own personal wrongs only.
Second, and also an important requirement for trust, they can't be shifty. People who constantly are different people to everyone must not be trusted. Recently, my family and I went to see a house for sale in the woods of Maryland and when we pulled in to the driveway of this property we saw 3 deer. At first, they looked like sculptures but we soon came to realized they were just standing absolutely still, waiting to see what we did to determine their first move. In life and especially in relationships we must be like the deer; wait to determine someones moves, before making your own. Often, people tell us with their actions all about themselves before they open their mouths.

As risky as it might be or feel to trust in things or people, 'trusting' does have its benefits. Trust brings us a sense of calm. We can leave alone and not worry the things we trust, allowing us for more peace and calm in our lives. Henry David Thoreau once sad, 'Things do not change; we change.'. When encountered with shifty, unhappy, unfulfilled people we figure out a way to work around needing them to make our lives complete and prioritizing on the relationships that strengthens and feeds us on the inside. Trust requires us to use our instincts and our inside gut feelings to judge trustworthiness of situations and people.

Most often we work or live in environments where everything and everyone seems like a moving target. How then do we find trustworthy people or situations to alleviate us from the chaos? When faced with a whole environment of distrust I find it essential to become whatever you consider to be 'the embodiment of trust' and recognize that having everyone be your friend is NOT a barometer of trustworthiness. In fact, I'd be wary of anyone who everyone claims to 'love' (but that is another post entirely). To walk and act with pure heart and intentions will always make some gravitate towards you, and some will be repelled. The good news about acting on a pure heart and intentions is that only the 'right' people will gravitate towards you, and in the end, that is the best outcome we can get.

How to still paint around kids

Trying to live a creative life and having kids is not easy. But making art is so incredibly important to maintaining my sanity and well being that I figured a way to do it....with my kids. We have this huge blanket we use for the floor, get all our supplies and we each get out palettes, brushes and colors. If each person (no matter their age) has what they need, they will get busy and let you work.
Here above is Nora's canvas. She uses the same one each time. It changes each time. The texture on it now is quite thick. I am working on a series that uses paper to build texture. They both have adopted my style and morphed it a bit. Interesting to see them follow their own ideas yet still pull some ideas and inspiration from my work.
Above is Luke's work. Not finished. He loves to build very think layers of paper. When it dries it feels more like a sculpture and he paints it. To him the mounds signify 'rocks'; an obsession of his. Will post pictures of most recent colors and textures soon.

Nora starts helping with nightly cooking

One of my New Years resolution is to cook healthy meals every night and so far its been great. It sounds like a lot of work at first, but I love cooking and I make enough for tomorrow's work lunch, so in the end it saves me time and loads of money. When Luke was 3 years old he was already cutting zucchini, peppers, and garlic like a pro using a butter knife. Here Nora wanted to help out and had a blast slicing an entire head of garlic. I peeled them and gave her a butter knife. I just love how focused she is in these pictures....but what I most love are her little hands and how careful she's being.


Nora's new shoes

Nora came to my art classroom and found some fabric scraps.....the whole way home she insisted I make her shoes from the fabric......here they are.....she wore them for 2 days straight.

1/19/11

New Luke Block Creations

We are now building higher....

Wilmington, North Carolina Weekend Adventure

Getting ready to go on an adventure.....
This is the routine when we get to any hotel....Luke tests the beds....

The beach was warm and beautiful......oh, how we hated to go back to coooollllld!
Luke is posing for me!!! Yes!!
Dad and his spanish moss beard.
Spanish moss.....all over the place.
These were humongous.....would not not want to be on the wrong side of this missile.
I don't think very yummy food could come out of these 'pots' ....
Which bed would you sleep in?
Toilets inside the SS North Carolina. Not very private huh?
Typical fence for armed forced location.....bomb fence....at least they get points for creativity.
Being obsessed with trees as much as I was....I was loving all the trees.
There were SO many dogs in Wilmington....everyone had at least one dog...but most had 2.
Nora using her fingers to sculpt her sand castle....love her little fingers in this picture....they are so small, yet still so focused and precise.

1/16/11

Burn Ego, Burn

Part of the gems of growing older is being able to painfully see and experience the asshole nature of your younger days. I encounter people or situations that make me think twice about someone's sanity, and ask myself, "Oh my, was I THIS way at their age?". Most often than not, I absolutely was!

One aspect of my younger years of which I am least proud of is my cockiness. Oh, how foolish I must come across in front of my older peers; it's painfully embarrassing even today to recall all the ways I made a fool of myself. The one huge failure of all graduate schools might be their utter inability to teach students humbleness and respect for hard-earned experience; in essence to keep your feet on the ground. Out of graduate school I stumble onto the workforce armed with an dangerous and irrational dose of overconfidence and total disregard for real life, in-the-trenches learning. I walk into my first real job filled with assumptions about everyone and everything. I assume I hold the answers to all problems. Yet, the most damaging assumption I bring with me is the one that thinks I know more than even the parents about their own children. Mind you, all these assumptions are not consciously expressed, they are tacitly demonstrated through my actions creating all sorts of havoc and painful learning experiences coaxing me 'gently' back to the proverbial ground.

The dilemma now in being slightly older is 'what do you do when you someone that reminds you of your cocky self years back?' Do you gently bump them to reality? or do you allow them to just be? I have to admit that the painful learning experiences I received as a result of being too cocky have caused me a great deal of confusion and pain initially, and it's only over a decade later that I have begun to see their true value in my life; only now am I able to be thankful for them as a vehicle for higher inner growth. So to try to bump them to reality is essentially placing yourself in a very negative space with this person for a long time. Cocky people (and I can say this having been one) have a very hard time being 'made' to touch the ground.

Nevertheless, the dilemma begs to question, what is the right thing to do in terms of these people in social situations? My general impulse is to run, not walk, away from these people and seek more even keel, sane social situations. In trying to battle with this I often ask myself, what would the all compassionate and loving Buddha do? Perhaps he'd say that to walk away is again a result of my own inner cockiness and absolutely NOT a decision filled with compassion and love. In Buddhism, attempting to change an external aspect of the world is always held under the umbrella of 'suffering'. Therefore, most likely, Buddha would not advocate addressing the issue in hopes of changing the 'other'. On the other hand, I am almost sure he'd say that I have tons more to learn about me and being around this person is just the solution to even deeper inner growth. Perhaps my lesson to learn here is that I have so much to still conquer and learn about how my OWN mind works. My inner self tells me that If walking through a room full of pompous, cocky young people still bothers me still, I MUSt have lots more ego to burn still. Time to get to work Miriam!

1/15/11

Christmas Holiday Highlights

Nora with her double stroller at Lelas.
Sadie and the kids. I MISS having a dog.
Luke with his diamond. Santa sent it.
A strange bird we saw on our hike. Took me 2 hours to find out what it was.....a COOT!
got snow? (Nora loves to eat snow)
Nature walk finds.......adorable duckies. They look unreal.
Snow on my mom's bird feeder.
Six swans.
Nora in the snow.....have no idea what she's doing.
Alex and Nora dancing.
Yia with 5 of her 7 grandkids.
Yia reads to Luke.
Luke and Nora show off Auntie Jenna's handmade cookies.
And off with their heads.
New Years Drinks.......(non-alcoholic for L and N)
Nora and her drink......YUM! Happy New Year!
Mario and his coffee......none of us stayed up until midnight......yes, we are getting older!!LOL